Where Should I Camp in Arizona?

May 10, 2016

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Arizona is for outdoors lovers. There’s arguably nowhere in the country with more scenic views, more inviting vistas or more sunshine. You can hike, bike, swim, fish and more across our beautiful state. Arizona’s warm year-round weather and abundance of parks makes it an ideal place to go camping.

Whether you’re a novice camper or a veteran of many adventures, there is a wide variety of places for you to explore across our fine state. We love swapping ideas for fun weekend getaways with our patients from the Phoenix area, and we’ve yet to be disappointed by any of the sites we’ve checked out.

We’ve put together a list of the best camping places in Arizona to help out others who enjoy spending time in nature. There’s a little something for every type of camper on this list, including:

  • Spots with RV hookups
  • Places with real showers
  • Parks offering stunning views
  • Fun destinations for families
  • Campgrounds with few luxuries but loads of character

Read on for our take on the best camping spots in Arizona, and be sure to share yours with us the next time you come in for a dental checkup.

Where Should I Camp in Arizona?

First, a few reminders before you start making your plans. Remember to contact a campground before you set off on your trip to make sure there’s enough room for you. Many have become so busy they require reservations. Pack whatever essentials you’ll need based on what’s provided at the campground. For instance, if there are no electrical hookups, then you’ll need to provide your own fire for cooking food.

You should always bring a first aid kit in case of emergency as well. Include the names and phone numbers of your doctor and dentist to have handy should you need help. Also look to see where the nearest hospital that accepts your insurance is located.

Top Camping Spots in Arizona

Now you’re ready for the fun part — finding your next camping destination. These 12 beautiful and fun destinations are sure to deliver the adventure you’re craving:

1. Manzanita

The river that runs by the Manzanita campsites brim with rainbow trout. Though it’s a popular destination, you can make reservations in advance to secure your spot. Weekdays tend to be less busy. If you work up a sweat while you fish, pop down to the nearby swimming hole for a refreshing dip.

Best for: Fishermen

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: No

Activities: Fishing, swimming, hiking

Insider tips: Wild blackberry and raspberry bushes around the campsites provide a great — and sugar-free — dessert following your trout feast. Many of the campsites are right on the creek, too, so you can cast lines from right outside your tent.

2. Havasupai Campground

To get to the Havasupai Campground, located at the top of the Havasu Falls, you have to undertake quite a hike. But the effort is worth it. The falls are part of the Grand Canyon, and they’re a majestic sight. Walk a bit farther to see Mooney Falls, which is even higher than the Niagara Falls in New York. The Havasupai Tribe oversees the campground.

Best for: Hikers looking to sack out for the night

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: No

Activities: Hiking

Insider tips: Reservations are a must for this popular campsite, which fills up fast from April through October. It’s best to call at least a couple of months in advance.

There’s a general store you can use for supplies in nearby Supai, which is also home to the country’s only post office that uses horses to deliver the mail. Make sure to send a postcard if you go there.

3. Fool Hollow Lake

The Fool Hollow Lake campground is located in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. It’s a great place for bird-watching, as you can see blue herons, bald eagles, ospreys and more sweep down onto the lake. If you prefer more hands-on activities, you can always go boating in the lake. The campground offers great fun for children, with two playgrounds and a horseshoe pit. For those who prefer not to rough it too hard, the site also offers hot showers at no additional charge.

Best for: Boaters, RVers, families

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: Yes

Activities: Bird watching, boating, hiking, fishing, swimming

Insider tips: The site has a well-earned reputation for cleanliness and quiet. It’s best-suited for those looking for a laid-back weekend, who enjoy a slower pace and gorgeous views. RV enthusiasts love that it offers both 30- and 50-amp hookups and concrete parks.

4. Aspen Campground

Aspen is one of the best-known campgrounds in Arizona, and for good reason. Nestled in north Central Arizona, the campsite includes varied terrain, from forests to marshes, as well as great opportunities to photograph wildlife. Deer and bears roam the area — and, fair warning, so do a few skunks. But don’t let that scare you off. This large campsite stays busy with fun activities such as biking and even educational presentations by Forest Service employees once a week.

Best for: Families, wildlife enthusiasts

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: No

Activities: Biking, boating, hiking, fishing, swimming

Insider tips: Aspen doesn’t offer showers, so if you’re staying for more than a few days, you may need to make arrangements to visit nearby Canyon Point Campground to get clean. Though there are 148 campsites, they’re spaced out comfortably so you don’t feel as though you’re on top of your neighbors.

5. Apache Trout Campground

Located at the Big Lake Recreation Area in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, this is another hugely popular destination for Arizona campers. It has a very high elevation of 9,100 feet, so it may not be ideal for older campers or those with heart or lung issues. However, for those who can weather the thinner air, Apache Trout boasts great views across Big Lake and showers, as well as the only utility hookups on the lake. It has 22 double sites and one that has a capacity of 100 people, making it ideal for large getaways.

Best for: Groups of multiple families

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: Yes

Activities: Boating, fishing, mountain biking, bird watching

Insider tips: Each campsite has its own grill, fire ring, and picnic table. You can rent a boat at the general store located less than a mile from Aspen. For fishermen who hate to pack up their trout without cleaning them, there’s also a fish cleaning station.

6. Christopher Creek Campground

You may be sensing a theme on this list. Many of the places we recommend are excellent fishing sites, and that includes Christopher Creek, which has a rich stock of rainbow, brook and brown trout for visiting fishermen. But water activities extend beyond catching fish. The campsite also borders three terrific swimming holes, ideal for splashing around in when that famous Arizona sun starts shining. The site is located along the Mogollon Rim, a cliff with picturesque buttes and canyons.

Best for: Fishermen, horseback riders

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: No

Activities: Swimming, fishing, horseback riding, cross-country skiing in the winter

Insider tips: Tired of cooking up your own breakfast, lunch and dinner on a multi-day camping trip to Christopher Creek? Good news. There are several restaurants located nearby where you can grab a bite to eat instead — a luxury that’s not always possible at other top AZ camping destinations.

7. Lockett Meadow

If you’re looking for luxury, Lockett Meadow may not be your best choice. If you don’t mind roughing it, though, head out to this campsite located near the San Francisco Peaks. As you may know, the peaks were once a volcano, and once it went extinct, they rose to become some of the state’s highest peaks. Wildlife runs rampant in the area. You may cross paths with a porcupine or catch an elk wandering near your tent.

Best for
: Seasoned campers

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: No

Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, wildlife photography

Insider tips: There’s no drinking water available on-site, so be sure to bring your own. If you want to see the area at its best time, go during the fall to see the impressive colors of the trees. Experienced campers love the low cost of the site, but they caution to be careful if you’re heading up in the winter. The road may be closed during bad weather because it’s very steep.

8. Catalina State Park                                                                                                                        

For those who like for their camping trips to resemble a cruise, with lots of activities and people, then Catalina State Park may be the ideal destination. The park offers a daily lineup of guided walks, lessons and programs. It also hosts regular concerts. The park, located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, has incredible views and is very family-friendly. Plus, it offers showers, which are always welcome no matter how many camping trips you’ve taken.

Best for: Less-experienced campers, families

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: No

Activities: Horseback riding, bird watching, hiking, concerts, mountain biking

Insider tips: Hear some yipping and howling near your site? Coyotes do live at the base of the mountain, as do big-horned sheep. They usually stay away from campers, though. The area is known for the saguaro cactus, with nearly 5,000 of them around the park.

9. Lees Ferry

History buffs will love Lees Ferry, located on the Colorado River. It’s a popular site largely because you cannot drive up to the river anywhere else in Grand Canyon National Park, but it’s also rich with history. Many old structures still remain in the area, which you can enter, explore and look for evidence of who lived there decades or even centuries ago. Lees Ferry was once believed to hold gold in the clay hills. Unsuccessful efforts to unearth the gold led to the sinking of a paddlewheel steamboat, which is still in the river today.

Best for: Experienced tent campers

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: No

Activities: Hiking, exploring local history, fly fishing

Insider tips: People who have stayed at Lees Ferry say it can become very windy. If you are tent camping, be sure to bring and use stakes to keep your tent from flying away in the strong afternoon gusts. You can tour the pioneer cemetery less than a mile away from the campsite. Your kids will also love high-fiving the backpackers finishing their hike of the Grand Canyon at this site.

10. Workman Creek

For serious fishermen looking to camp out close to Workman Falls, Workman Creek is the best option. You can fish either above or below the falls, but no boats are allowed. When you’re done with your fishing for the day, the campsite provides a nice place for a rest, although there are no luxuries. The scenery makes it a popular spot for fishing trips, though, and the Aztec Peak Lookout, located nearby, offers a fun hiking destination.

Best for: Fishermen, experienced campers

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: No

Activities: Fishing, hiking, photography

Insider tips: Did we already mention this is a bare-bones site? You’re coming for the location, not the amenities. However, many people prefer this way of camping to going somewhere with showers and flush toilets. The solitude of this area also draws visitors in. You can enjoy the peace and quiet you may not find at a family camping site.

11. Cochise Stronghold Campground

The East Stronghold Canyon was named for Cochise, the famous leader of the Apaches, who had his tribe use the canyon to spy on people coming from any direction. Those visitors could not see they were being watched. Cochise so loved this spot that he requested to be moved there on his deathbed in 1874. The Cochise Stronghold has a unique mix of vegetation from the nearby Chihuahuan and Upper Sonoran deserts.

Best for: Experienced campers, hikers

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: No

Activities: Hiking, history, picnicking

Insider tips: There’s no potable water available at Cochise, so be sure to bring your own. You can see awe-inspiring views of the Dragoon Mountains at the Cochise Stronghold. Be sure to bring a camera — a real one, not just your smartphone — to get high-quality photos.

12. Picacho Peak State Park

You may have heard of Picacho Peak State Park because of the annual reenactment — Civil War in the Southwest — that takes place there. Or maybe you’re familiar with the 1,500-foot peak that attracts not just Arizona residents but visitors from other states. Whatever the case, you’ve likely heard of this park that is also home to a great variety of desert plants, such as green palo verde trees. The trails have been around since the prehistoric era. Be sure to do the two-mile Hunter’s Trail, which winds to the top of the peak.

Best for: Experienced campers, hikers

Restrooms: Yes

Utility hookups: Yes

Activities: Hiking, history, reenactments,

Insider tips: Hunter Trail is for advanced hikers. A system of cables and planks helps those making their first trek to get up the peak, but you should have some hiking experience if you attempt the trail. Picacho Peak does offer on-site showers, which you’ll need after the steep and challenging hike. Keep an eye for historical markers along the way, and don’t rule out bringing the kids. There is a playground at the campsite.

Enjoy Your Trip to the Best Camping Spots in Arizona

We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the best camping places in the state. We are lucky to live in a state where camping opportunities are so readily available, and the weather is conducive to camping almost all year long.

Remember, if you do run into a dental emergency during your trip, you can always call our office to receive immediate care. We hope your trip is safe and fun. Share the details when you come in for your next checkup!

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